Jetson fends off Quevega to claim shock World Series Hurdle victory
Brilliant mare Quevega could finish only second as Jetson caused a major upset in the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle at Punchestown.
Fresh from winning the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival for the sixth successive year, the Willie Mullins-trained Quevega was the 9-10 favourite to secure a fifth victory on the bounce in this three-mile Grade One.
She travelled with her usual zest for much of the journey, but Ruby Walsh was hard at work from the home turn.
Jetson, up with the pace from outset, had already stolen a march on his rivals at the top of the straight and while Quevega did her best to reel him after the final flight, Jessica Harrington's runner had enough in reserve to score by a length and a quarter in the hands of an inspired Davy Russell.
At Fishers Cross was third as Quevega suffered her first defeat since 2009.
Although a consistent handicapper over staying trips, Jetson appeared to have his work cut out stepped up to Grade One level and was a 20-1 shot.
In what proved a tactical affair, Knockara Beau cut out much of the running before Jetson took it up in the back straight.
The closing pack swiftly bunched up, with Quevega one of those tight for room on the inside rail, and Jetson made the most of his advantage as he took a few lengths out of the field at the top of the straight.
It proved decisive as his opponents were never able to bridge the gap and he was ridden out to secure a shock victory.
Russell said: "Jessica had him in great order and I got a great spin off him.
"To be fair, Paddy Kennedy (jockey) said the last two days he's been in the form of his life. Kate Harrington told me he'd run a blinder, so they instilled plenty of confidence in me.
"We didn't think he'd be good enough to beat the mare, but we thought he'd run well. All credit to the team."
Harrington said: "That was absolutely fantastic and a bit of a surprise.
"We ran him in this as there was no other race to run him in here. He'd have been at the top of all the handicaps.
"He comes to himself in the spring every year and he was in great form.
"I said to Davy that he stays well and he's tough, so he made use of him.
"He never missed a beat and he loves that ground.
"We did send him over fences for a while and he won a chase at Downpatrick, but he hated jumping fences.
"I thought he might run into a place as he's a fresh horse, even though he's been to Cheltenham and Aintree.
"He loves this time of year and he loves it round here.
"I didn't think in my wildest dreams he'd win, but he's run out of his skin.
"That was only Davy's second ride for me and his first winner. I think I better employ him a bit more now!"
Mullins said: "Things didn't go great for Quevega in the race at all, but full marks to the winner."
Mullins added that the 10-year-old Quevega could have run her last race.
He said: "I thought she didn't get much luck in running and Davy rode a good race on the winner. He got a good run and it proved a winning run.
"I'll speak to the owners but I'd imagine this was her last race. She's a special mare and it would be hard to repeat what she's done.
"We'll always be trying to buy one like her but you can't replace her."